From the Glenside News, April 2015 (added 31/08/15 : MG)
Letters to the Editor
Sir, I take issue with the “view form the Chair” article in last month’s Glenside submitted by the Chair of the Parish Council. It presents the case that the proposed plan to include a Health Centre in the Quarry Development would be bad for the existing GP practice – laudable if the aim is to protect an existing social assess, though she presents no evidence to support the claim. However, it is lamentable when the real question should be “what would be the best outcome for the community”. An enlarged service with more on-site medical facilities has obvious benefits for us all. Moreover, the agents for the site have repeatedly said the Health Centre would only be built if there is an identified need for it and that evidence still needs to be gathered and assessed. The Parish Council should put the wider community need first.
This leads me to the thorny question of overall proposals for the Quarry. The Parish Council met on 18 February (2015) with only one real agenda item to consider – the Quarry Planning Application S14/3097. The Chair had not invited a representative from Frampton‘s to attend so the meeting included a lot of speculative opinion – nearly all of which could have been corrected had Frampton‘s been present. More to the point there was no willingness to widely consult the community and seek their views. The result was two Councillors voted for the development and seven against. Only after the meeting was the suggestion made that the public could ask questions at the next scheduled Parish Council meeting on 4 March (2015). Twenty-nine members of the public attended and the 10 minute allotted session went on for an hour. It was pretty obvious that most members of the public present did not agree with the Parish Council decision.
On 2 March (2015) I was contacted by the owner of the Quarry and advised that if objections to the Planning Application continued he would have to consider an offer made on behalf of a group of Travellers to sell the Quarry with the current extant planning permission. He also gave consent for me to share that information with the community. In an early e-mail on this subject I commented that the news would generate “justified righteous indignation” and this has proved to be the case. The news can rightly be classified as a “threat” or “blackmail” or arm twisting or a bluff, but such a potential sale would be perfectly legal and cannot be ignored.
Just before the 4 March (2015) Parish Council meeting I was able to secure the attendance of the Senior Partner from Framptons for a Public Meeting on 18 March (2015). More than 130 people attended and the main intention was to show how the proposed development in the Quarry would benefit Castle Bytham and the surrounding smaller settlements. The dire need for affordable housing in rural areas is one aspect. In England urban areas have an average of 21% of their housing in the affordable range but this drops off to 13% in rural areas and is the single most important factor in preventing young families with existing ties to their rural communities being able to stay in them. The knock on effect impacts school intakes and many other factors that affect the local economy. The Quarry proposals include 27 affordable homes. Nursing home places are also much in demand and are a reflection of an ageing population. However, the main impact they have on the wider community are the jobs they create. The proposed 60 bed Nursing Home would generate 70+ jobs.
The national statistics in England and Wales show an ageing population of 19.8% of over 60’s. Locally we have around 23% in that age bracket and this is forecast to rise to around 28% locally in the next 10 years. The proposals include 50 houses laid out to appeal to this sector of the community. I was amused by a remark that we did need to import more elderly people but I see this as more a way of “recycling” our own Senior Citizens. Many retired people whose families have flown the nest live in houses now too large for their needs but do not want to leave the community they have lived in for many years. The ability to downsize within the community has obvious attractions, including freeing up larger properties for families.
I have dealt with the Health Centre and that only leaves the inclusion of a Community Shop in the project, something that is still a subject for negotiation between the Shop Steering Group and Framptons. There remains though one over arching strategic objective. Rural Communities are losing local services at an alarming rate. As an example more than 400 rural shops close each year, the majority in villages with less than 1000 people. Local Schools, bus services etc are all at risk as the squeeze on Local Government spending forces more and more reductions in services within rural villages. Our population in the 2011 Census was 763, we need to grow to retain and improve local services.
During the meeting the elephant in the room was of course the possibility the Quarry could become a Traveller site. However, leaving aside the howls of righteous indignation on that subject a straw poll of those present showed a clear 75% in favour of allowing the Quarry development to go ahead. The Parish Council was thrown a lifeline to change its mind on the subject by our District Councillor at 4 March (2015) meeting. Let us hope they grasp it and tie it off to a bollard of common-sense. In the meantime anyone can comment on the Quarry Application by going to the SKDC Planning website at www.southkesteven.gov.uk view a planning application and type in S14/3097, you will see a heading “Comment on this Application”; or write to Alan Harvey at SKDC Planning, St Peters Hill, Grantham, NG31 6PZ. It is quite legitimate to say “yes, but …” and ask for clarification or information if you are not sure about any aspect of the Application.
Incidentally, I totally agree with the Chairman’s remarks about school transport, parents of secondary school age children are being treated very badly and deserve our support.
Finally a reminder that there will be an election in May (2015) that also affects Parish Councils. There are 9 places on the Castle Bytham Parish Council but unless more than 9 people stand for election applicants get in on a bye. We have not had an election since the late 1990’s so whatever happens please use your vote.